Electric Vehicles Already Satisfy Our Daily Needs

The UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board releases analysis of data collected from a UK-wide demonstrator programme involving 340 ultra-low carbon vehicles. A range of vehicle types, including high performance cars and small city runabouts, were driven by real users making everyday journeys.

The findings collected from on-board computers and face-to-face surveys reveal that participants in the trial met the challenges of switching to an ultra low carbon vehicle with ease, often getting completely used to the change after just one week. Participants were also impressed with the performance of their ultra low carbon vehicles, and 83 per cent of private drivers said the vehicles met their daily needs.

A driver interviewed by Oxford Brookes University as part of the trial said: “It’s been really surprising actually. I’d thought it would take a bit more getting used to but apart from little quirks of the car that you know about, it wouldn’t be any different if you were in a different model to your normal car, it’s been quite an easy sort of relaxed transition actually.”

Business Minister Mark Prisk commented: “These preliminary findings send a clear signal to the low carbon vehicle sector that we are moving in the right direction. It is clear from these results that the initial fears of using electric vehicles are unfounded with private drivers in particular rapidly adapting to – and enjoying – their use as part of everyday life. The intelligence that the report provides will be invaluable to promote collaboration and inform future R&D, leading to growth in this globally competitive market.”

The usage and perception data covers just under 20,000 charging events and over 110,000 individual journeys covering just under 680,000 miles. The data collected from the cars is also underpinned by the findings from perception surveys conducted before the trials and during three months in which personal drivers (PDs) and fleet drivers (FDs) were interviewed.

The full analysis findings are being presented at the automotive industry’s annual low carbon vehicle event LCV 2011, at Rockingham on September 7th and 8th.

Key Findings:

The actual experience of learning how to use the vehicle was even more straightforward than the drivers had anticipated prior to the trial. 95 per cent of private drivers (PDs) found that EVs were no more difficult to use than the car the participants usually drove.

This ease of adaptation is backed up by usage data showing that there was no significant individual journey length or daily mileage per vehicle change over the first three months of usage, showing users made little or no change to their daily driving habits after switching from conventional to low carbon vehicles.

Performance: Prior to the trial, only 16 per cent of PDs and 14 per cent of Fleet Drivers (FDs) expected their EV to perform better than their normal car. However, these scores improved by 24 per cent and 26 per cent respectively after three months.

Range anxiety: Prior to the trial 100 per cent of PDs said they would be more concerned about reaching their destination with an EV than they would with their normal car. After three months this dropped significantly, by 35 per cent.

The drop in range anxiety is in part due to the increased understanding of vehicle capabilities, driving techniques and journey planning. Charging data also shows users gained more confidence in their journey distance over the three months, with an eight per cent increase in users allowing their batteries to drop below 50 per cent before plugging in.

However, after three months of vehicle use, both PDs and FDs still cite the adequate range they require for daily trips at 92.12 miles and 120.64 miles respectively, showing that despite confidence in the vehicles’ ability an increased range is still a key desire.

Iain Gray Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board commented on the results:
“This data from the real world use of low carbon vehicles is extremely useful to the sector and forms a key pillar in our Low Carbon Vehicle Innovation Platform. The fact that users did not have to alter their daily routine to integrate the vehicles into their lives shows that, where appropriate, they are already a viable form of low carbon transport. As such we will continue to invest in and push forward the low carbon vehicle innovation landscape.”

This early stage data detailing the first three months’ findings was gathered through in-vehicle data logging and perception surveys. The report is available online at http://www.innovateuk.org/ourstrategy/innovationplatforms/lowcarbonvehicles.ashx . It provides information that allows business to identify challenges and opportunities within the low carbon vehicle sector and inform their future R&D and innovation. The full year cross-trial data analysis will be published in the same location in the summer of 2012.

The £25m Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles Demonstrator programme, launched in 2009 by the Technology Strategy Board, includes 19 vehicle manufacturers, with 340 vehicles being trialled in seven different demonstrator hubs across the UK. The programme is supported by the Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles.